A group of women who belong to the St. Mark the Evangelist Parish knitting and crocheting group believe that crocheting and knitting have the power to heal. They understand the prayers accompanying each stitch can bring comfort, warmth and restoration to the recipients of their prayer shawls.

Recently, in honor of the Kenosha parish’s centennial celebration, the group reached out to the wider parish community to ask for help in creating crocheted granny squares. These squares, according to charter member Sherry Thomas, would be sewn into beautiful afghans and presented to those in need.

“This project became a symbolic means of providing support and blessings to others because of its primary focus on loving one another,” Thomas said.

As plans for the centennial were developed, Fr. Carlos Florez, the pastor of St. Mark, and Kris Meeker, the parish business manager, attended a gathering of the knitting/crocheting group. Thomas said, “They wanted to let us know that we would be actively included in this celebration. An activity was discussed by the planning committee that would be earmarked with a specific purpose and would provide us with an opportunity to use our yarn-crafting skills to implement it.”

In a February parish bulletin, a goal was listed to gather as many crocheted granny squares as possible to be created into afghans. The deadline for submissions was in April. Once enough squares were collected, the knitting and crocheting group would begin sewing them together into afghans.

“By the April deadline, we had more than 2,000 granny squares that were submitted by parishioners, members of the knitting/crocheting group, and their family and friends,” said Thomas. “It is difficult to know how many people crocheted the squares. One person donated several hundred granny squares, and a friend of one of our members crocheted 69 red, white and blue squares for a patriotic afghan. My granddaughter and I made 200 squares, and others from within and outside the parish made plentiful contributions as well.”

Two patterns for creating the granny squares were provided in the bulletin flyer, but the decisions on colors and size were left up to the discretion of the needleworker.

The completed afghans will be presented on an as-needed basis to migrants seeking support, through the St. Mark Outreach Center, a ministry within the parish.

“Because St. Mark is a primary resource providing support to migrant families who come to Kenosha, the Outreach Center has become how they can secure support for their needs,” said Thomas.  “When the afghan project was developed, it was targeted to be the resource by which they would be distributed to migrant families who come with basically nothing to establish themselves in our country and community.  Emphasis is being placed on providing them with a prayer blanket or afghan as one of the ways they would be supported.”

There are 29 members of the knitting/crocheting group, with approximately 18 meeting every week. The members are from the greater Kenosha area and belong to St. Mark Parish and other congregations.

“Those who are making the afghans began in March, as soon as there were enough granny squares to do so. On average, about two afghans per week were able to be completed,” said Thomas. “The patterns for the granny squares indicated they should be made in 6-inch squares. Those who crocheted the squares were encouraged in the instructions to adjust their techniques by using different size crochet hooks and/or weight of the yarn to accomplish the designated 6-inch square.”

Some of the afghans were completed with 80 granny squares and some with 90, due to the varying size of needles and stitch size. Each afghan is about 60 inches by 48 inches, and so far, 22 are completed and ready for distribution.

“The ultimate goal is to make all the granny squares into afghans so that members of the outreach committee can distribute them as the need arises,” said Thomas. “Those who helped crochet and create the afghans said they felt pure joy, excitement, enthusiasm and enjoyment in being able to help others. There was also a learning process because some were taught to crochet to make these granny squares.”

Not only was the afghan project unifying for the knitting/crocheting group and the parish, but it also unified the bond between other denominations within the group.

“We felt blessed to joyfully come together for a greater cause,” said Thomas. “It also reawakened our joy in engaging in our craft/hobby because of the opportunity we were given to enrich the wellbeing of others.”

The knitting/crocheting group was established in 2009, and Thomas has served as the coordinator of the prayer shawl ministry for several years.

“I think of myself as one of those deeply privileged to be a part of such a beautiful, enthusiastic, thoughtful, committed group of people who have the best interests of others as a primary focus in their lives,” she said.